Jim Carrey, Steve Carell, Carol Burnett, Will Arnett, Amy Poehler, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen, Isla Fisher, Dane Cook
Jimmy Hayward, Steve Martino
Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio
20th Century Fox
It would take a Grinch to rain on the parade of "Horton Hears a Who," a heartwarming and affectionate spin on Dr. Seuss's classic children's book that makes it almost possible to forgive Jim Carrey for his live action work as the aforementioned Grinch in 2000's "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."
Seuss's widow reportedly advocated for Carrey as Horton, impressed with his performance despite the film's widely recognized mediocrity.
Indeed, with live action Seuss behind him Carrey is free to let his inner vibrant exuberance bounce across the screen freely as the innocently curious Horton, an elephant who one day discovers the world of Whoville existing on a passing speck of dust. Horton commits himself to protecting the residents of Whoville, including its Mayor (Steve Carell) and a host of delightful characters.
An oppositional kangaroo (Carol Burnett) tries to get in his way supported by the mercenary meanderings of a delightfully difficult eagle of sorts (Will Arnett). Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill and Isla Fishers are equally enterprising and worthy cinematic co-horts.
While "Horton Hears a Who" takes a few script liberties that may irritate Seuss purists, the folks at Blue Sky Studios ("Robots") have remained surprisingly faithful to Seuss's whimsical and loving spirit with both their non-rhyming dialogue and a layered visual style that is quite fantastic. It must be noted, however, that purists were not forgotten as ever so often one of Seuss's trademark rhyming couplets will surface to the delight of adults and children alike.
Whereas the recent live-action adaptations of Seuss have tried to take the "Shrek" route by including pop-culture and adult references, "Horton Hears a Who" is pointedly aimed at the kiddies while remaining fast paced and entertaining enough to hold the interest of adults and accompanying parents.
"A person's a person, no matter how small," Horton says, a simple value that radiates throughout the wonderfully spirited film. Horton is loyal and he never forgets, and it is his willingness to stand up for what he believes in even when everyone else thinks he's crazy that makes him so completely delightful. While they never recorded their scenes together, Carrey and Carell have such a wondrous vocal chemistry that it is impossible to watch "Horton Hears a Who" without possessing a similar faith in this most unlikely friendship that develops.
While not all the gags work, even the lamest gags are visually delightful and, occasionally, adults are likely to watch the screen smiling as Horton brings alive John F. Kennedy while the kids will still be watching the scene utterly captivated by the more literal goings on.
The Jungle of Nool, perhaps Blue Sky's most impressive creation, is filled to the brim with a kaleidoscope of characters that would overwhelm Mr. Magorium but will enchant audiences. With dialogue that occasionally feels as if it might be right at home in a Shel Silverstein piece, "Horton Hears a Who" innocently, sweetly and mischievously dances through Whoville in ways that are difficult to describe and equally as difficult to forget.
While Carrey literally splatters himself across the screen, Carell adds a surprising touch of tenderness as the befuddled Mayor and father of 96 daughters, one son and an ever-loving wife. Burnett reminds us all why she's one of history's greatest comediennes, and the supporting cast, most notably Arnett, all captivate despite the undeniable fact that "Horton Hears a Who" is clearly a Carrey, Carell and Burnett ballet.
Undeniably fun and entertaining to boot, Dr. Seuss would be proud "Horton Hears a Who" is a hoot.
|© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic